Vipassana meditation

by | Jun 24, 2021 | India | 0 comments

I’ve been talking about it for a long time….even if I can’t imagine sitting for ten days and “just” meditating. But everyone says it’s an amazing experience. I’m feeling more and more like I need to do it.

I couldn’t have picked a better time: because of corona virus, my kids and husband are at home, studying and working online. When else do you want to go? The excuse that something might happen doesn’t exactly stand up to much – everyone is home together, go! And so I open the page of the Vipassana Center in Bangalore. I looked there a week ago, it was packed until summer. What is my surprise when a vacancy popped up – in three weeks! It’s a sign! I fill in my details and tap “enter”.  It’s been sent  and there is no way back.

The Vipassana center  is on the other side of the town, and it takes an hour and a half to get there with an Uber. As soon as I arrive, I’m sent to the women’s section, where several women are already sitting with huge suitcases. I call home one last time and then, worried, turn off my phone, which is promptly taken away and locked in a safe. I’ll get it back in 10 days, if I survive.

There are two of us in the rooms. I’m glad I’m with a woman about the same age as me. But it doesn’t really matter, we’re not allowed to talk or otherwise communicate.

After a modest dinner we watch a welcome and explanation video. Anyone who feels they can’t handle it can still leave – now! No one is giving up, but I sense that no one feels like laughing. And then it’s off to bed, the wake up call at 4am.

And indeed – not only the sound of the gong but also the two women volunteers relentlessly ring the bell outside our room door until the light comes on. I hurriedly put on a T-shirt and pants, a huge scarf over my shoulders, which is obligatory here, and a blanket, even in Bangalore it is cold in the morning.

We meet in a large hall, women on one side, men on the other. Everyone is assigned a seat on the floor, for the duration of their stay. We will spend most of the day in the hall, the meditations are interrupted only by short breaks and one larger one for lunch. After ten minutes of sitting with the legs crossed, everything starts hurting, especially my legs and back, from the top to the bottom….. How can I handle this? I can’t sit like this for 10 hours a day!? My monkey mind won’t let me rest, but at the same time I understand that with such an attitude I can’t last here even till the first lunch.

For the next hour I try to concentrate on my breathing, the spot just below my nose, as Mr Goenka`s voice tells us through the audio recording. The voice of this amazing man, who re-introduced this meditation technique in India, accompanies us throughout the 10 days, both in English and in the local language – Kannada, of which I understand absolutely nothing, but every now and then I catch a word taken from Sanksrit and slowly begin to fall in love with this language.

For the first three days we are “only” supposed to concentrate on our breath, on the place under our nostrils. A seemingly easy task, but try it for 2 minutes – if you’re not used to meditating, I’m sure that even after a few seconds your mind will try to lead you anywhere but under your own nose. I have to admit that I had more than one idea of an escape in those early days of Vipassana. My only consolation are the food breaks: when the smell of fresh idly and chutney wafts  into the dining hall as I enter, I am at the height of happiness. Breakfast and lunch are the pinnacle of a gourmet bliss for me, a lover of Indian, vegetarian cuisine. For dinner, we get a piece of fruit and a handful of some puffed rice.  More of a light snack for me. But after a few days, you get used to this too and find that you don’t have to fill your stomach to the top every night. And then it’s also much easier to get up and meditate.

On the fourth day, something happened. During my morning meditation, a sudden feeling of happiness washed over me. But a different kind of happiness than the one I know. One that comes from within and is actually still with me, I’m just not used to opening up to it. A feeling of the deepest peace and certainty that everything is as it should be. This feeling lasted until the end of the meditation…. and then went away again. But not forever. With each subsequent meditation it came again, sooner or later. And then it persisted after the meditation. And with it a feeling of gratitude arose. Gratitude for everything. For being here. For everyone who has appeared in my life. For every experience. For the piece of watermelon I got for dinner. And then those feelings disappeared again. I felt an overwhelming pain in my back, and I couldn’t feel my legs at all. And I felt like I was going to start screaming…screaming at the top of my lungs…..and then came the tears….and then…..there was complete peace and quiet…..I could only hear my breath flowing through my body…..calm and certainty that everything was as it should be…..and then followed the feeling that if I didn’t start moving now, my body would explode.

And so, during the lunch break, I probably walked several kilometres in a circle in front of the hall, the only place we could go. And I wanted  to scream again… we were not allowed to do anything, read, write, talk, sing….nothing like that….just be with ourselves….. what a difficult and yet so basic thing! And then I was sitting in a meditation again and I had  a feeling of absolute freedom….but not such an euphoric one…. I was completely calm….. knowing that I could do whatever I wanted…. that the happiness and freedom and peace and serenity were within me. ….deep peace and Love…gratitude…humility….

And this is what Vipassana teaches us: anitya – equanimity, peace, nothing lasts forever and everything is always changing, constant change is the nature of everything. The law of nature, the law of impermanence – anitya*.  Be conscious and still. Be aware of your feelings and don’t react to them. Accept everything, observe objectively, without desires and aversions. Observe with a calm mind and equanimity. Pleasant or unpleasant – “This too shall pass.”

Vipassana means “to see things as they really are”. It is a process of mental purification through self-observation.    

With each new day, this feeling deepened within me, the sensations became more and more subtle, as if I were peeling back the rough edges of myself….. . Suddenly I found that I had stopped counting the days left to the end or that I saw the remaining days not as a bridge to liberation, but as a gift to enjoy this deep connection with myself and in fact with everyone and everything.

On the last day, my roommate and I missed the time to pick up our phones. We finally got them, of course, and then threw them in our bags, turned off.  We hugged. We didn’t say much, didn’t want to talk, but felt a beautiful  connection with each other.

It’s probably impossible to describe all the feelings that come up during Vipassana. Everyone has to experience it for themselves. And it’s not even necessary to sign up for such a meditation right away. It takes time and confidence that it is the right thing to do. And also a little practice…. just sit down, close your eyes and listen….. and the next day again….. and again …


*Anitya a Sanskrit word (anicca in Pali, in Buddhism) = the law of impermanence. It refers to the idea that suffering does not last, but neither do the material comforts of life; everything including  oneself is impermanent and constantly changing.

Bangalore, India, February 2021